Title: Future Tense (2/?)

Author: Cyclone

Feedback: Please be gentle.

Distribution: Gimme credit and a link. Plus, archived at http://fanfiction.net/profile.php?userid=62966

Rating: I'm gonna go say PG-13.

Spoilers: For Buffy, up to Grave. For Firefly... well, we only got one season (damn you, Fox), so there's not much to spoil. *grumble* Still, I may refer to anything in any of the episodes ME actually got to make.

Disclaimer: The characters depicted herein belong to the almighty Joss. I'm just borrowing them for a while.

Summary: Displaced five centuries into the future, Xander Harris joins the crew of the Firefly-class starship Serenity.

Author's Note: To Buffy fans, this is very heavily Xander-centric. At the moment, it is unlikely that any other Buffy character will make frequent appearances. Also, to avoid the horror that made season six look good (and to avoid the peculiar oddity of Captain Caleb and his trusted second, Jasmine...), season seven of BtVS will be completely ignored.

* * *

"Cap'n, upgrades are online. Serenity's purrin' like a kitten," Kaylee said cheerfully.

"Well, that's good," Mal nodded encouragingly. "Everythin' as expected?"

"Yes, sirree."

"Fantastic, 'cause I just lined up a new job, and we may be needin' 'em."

* * *

"Can you handle a gun?" Jayne asked, cocking an eyebrow at Xander. "We just got a job, and the Cap told me to check you out on one."

"Been awhile," Xander shrugged, "but I think I can train back up."

"Well, let's see what you got."

* * *

"Gettin' better, punk," Jayne said, nodding with reluctant respect.

Xander frowned at the revolver distastefully, "Maybe. I'm more used to automatics, though. Less kick."

Jayne snorted, "You want an auto, pick it off a dead man. Y'ain't touchin' any of mine."

"Wouldn't want to," Xander cracked. "Don't know where they've been."

Jayne scowled.

* * *

"Seems kind of mundane," Xander muttered. "How does one passenger rate us going this far out of our way?" He was by no means an expert on interstellar travel -- being from a time when it didn't exist -- but he had grasped enough of the basic concepts and locations to realize that they were going pretty far off the beaten path.

"By payin' enough to keep this boat an' crew goin' for a month, that's how," Mal replied. "Besides, we're swingin' by another planet to pick up some cargo in that area anyway." He looked up and hissed, "Now be quiet. Here she comes."

He stepped forward and said cheerfully, "Miss Caanon, I'm Malcolm Reynolds, captain of the Serenity."

"A pleasure to meet you, Captain," Diana Caanon said, shaking his hand firmly. She had blue eyes and wore her blonde hair in a cascade of ringlets. "This is my bodyguard, Van, and my assistant, Tanya."

She gestured to the imposing giant of a man that stood to her left, then to the professional-looking brunette in a business suit to her right.

Mal nodded to them, "This here's my crew: Zoe, my second; Kaylee, mechanic; Wash, pilot; Simon, medic. The other two are my, ah, security detail: Xander and Jayne." He eyed Van and said, "'Preciate it if you'd work with them while on my boat. Don't want no trouble."

"We expect none," Van replied.

"However," Diana interjected, "I would like to make a stop at Grendel before we head to Tigris, if it's not too much trouble. I'm willing to pay an additional twenty percent."

Mal raised an eyebrow. That was where Badger's cargo was waiting. He shook his head, "Not a problem, ma'am. I'm sure we can find something to while away the time there." He paused and felt obligated to mention, "But Grendel's not exactly a place for gentlefolk."

"I'm sure Van can handle it," Diana said with a disarming smile. "We have some rather pressing business to attend to there."

* * *

Xander whirled around, lashing out with his foot at the makeshift punching bag -- really, a spare sleeping bag he had stuffed with extra pillows and blankets and hung in the cargo bay.

He paused, breaking his workout short, when he heard the clapping from behind him. He turned and grinned at Van, "So, any pointers, Mister Professional?"

Van shook his head, "Not really. You're good. Unrefined, but good, and I doubt my style would work for a scrawny little punk like you."

"'Scrawny little punk'?" Xander repeated, mock outrage written on his face. "Care to back that up, pal?"

Van smiled and calmly removed his coat, "I was hoping you'd say that."

* * *

As Van pulled himself to his feet for the third time in a row, he shook his head disbelief, "You're better than I thought. How'd you learn to fight like that?"

Xander shrugged, "I'm used to fighting people twice as strong and three times as fast as you are. 'Course, I usually _lost_, but it does help."

Van cocked an eyebrow, "Tournament fighter?" He raised his other eyebrow and grinned, "Live training dummy?"

"You wouldn't believe me if I told you," Xander said, shaking his head ruefully. "Let's just say those days are behind me now."

* * *

Xander glanced around edgily. Ever since the night Jesse had died, he had developed an extreme dislike of dark places.

"Afraid of the dark, kid?" Van asked, amusement in his voice. Mal had ordered Xander to accompany Miss Caanon and her companions on their business, over his and their protests.

"Hell, yeah," Xander replied without hesitation, even as he surreptitiously fingered the stake hidden in his pocket. Under his breath, he muttered, "With what's out there, a fear of the dark is a healthy thing to have, believe me."

"This way," Diana said calmly, turning down a darkened alley. Stopping at a nondescript door, she turned to Van and Xander, "Please, both of you, stay here. We'll only be a moment." Turning to Tanya, she said, "Tanya?"

The assistant nodded and followed Diana in.

"So," Xander cracked, "what do you suppose is in there, Van? Some immortal secret about the female gender?"

Van chuckled, "You may be right about that. I don't ask questions. Safer that way."

Xander snorted, "Don't I know it."

The door creaked open again, and Tanya and Diana emerged. They each held large bags containing what Xander would guess were books... large books, the sort that belonged in Giles' Watcher library.

As Diana climbed down the four crumbling old steps that led up to the door, one gave way, and she fell.

Xander and Van both moved, but Tanya was faster, dropping her load and catching Diana before she hit the ground. "Are you all right, Miss Caanon?"

"Yes, thank you, Tanya," she replied.

Xander bent over to pick up Tanya's package... and froze.

"Wait a minute. I recognize these," he murmured. He looked up, "What the hell are you doing with the Books of Ascension?"

* * *

"Badger," Mal muttered under his breath, "if I get out of this alive, I'm gonna kill you."

It could have been worse, all things considered... but not by much. Zoe and Jayne -- his two best guns -- were here with him, and that lowered the odds of a last-minute rescue considerably.

"So," Mal said as cheerfully as he could manage to the large and imposing fellow who seemed to be in charge, "care to tell me why you gentlefolk are pointin' guns at us like that?"

The apparent leader merely stepped aside, and an impeccably -- if tastelessly -- dressed man stepped out from behind the row of unhygienic thugs. He only stood about five feet tall and wore a bowler hat and an ugly white leisure suit with vertical black pinstripes. A large and tacky gold-plated amulet adorned his scrawny chest, hanging from an equally tacky gold chain.

"Captain Reynolds," the short man said, "we've been expecting you. Allow me to introduce myself. My name is Adrian Cygnus, and I've done some work for Badger on occasion. I am also currently rather upset with him."

"Knowin' Badger, that's not a real big surprise."

"You _do_ know him," Adrian smiled. "In any case, some time ago, I and my associates performed a job for him, and he has yet to pay us for it."

Mal shrugged, "So talk to him 'bout it. I'm just a cargo hauler."

"Be that as it may," Adrian said, "he's not here... and you are. Given that he's ignored my previous complaints, I imagine the head of one of his common business partners will acquire his attention more rapidly."

"Now wait just one minute here," Mal protested indignantly. "He's just a client, nothin' else. You're gonna have to do better'n me to get his 'tention."

"Perhaps," Adrian shrugged, "but let's find out, shall we?"

* * *

"How do you...?" Diana was cut off as a figure detached itself from the shadows and lunged at Diana. Tanya whirled around, a wooden stake sprouting from her sleeve, and she plunged into the attacker's chest... and he turned to dust.

As more vampires appeared, Xander moved as well, drawing his own stake and turning to face them.

The battle was quick, and there was no mistaking Tanya's superior strength and agility as she kicked, punched, flipped, and staked vampire after vampire.

Xander slumped against the wall, and Van sighed, "Well, that explains how you're such a good fighter. How long you been in this?"

"Six years," Xander said, nursing a bruised rib. "I hate vampires." His gaze drifted to Tanya, "And I think I know what's going on now. So, who's the jerk trying to Ascend?"

"That's none of your business," Tanya said coolly. This "Xander" wasn't a part of the Society. Wait... Xander...?

"Like hell, it's not," Xander snorted. "I've fought by three Slayers, two witches, and a werewolf. If they couldn't get me to stay out of it, you don't stand a chance."

Diana shook her head, "That's impossible. There hasn't been a Slayer in over two hundred years."

"'Two hun-'... then what about her?" Xander demanded, pointing at Tanya.

Diana sighed, "She's not a Slayer, but she's undergone chemical augmentation."

"You're him, aren't you?" Tanya said suddenly. "You're _him_. Xander _Harris_."

He stared. When did _he_ become a celebrity?

Suddenly, the comlink Mal had given him beeped, and he clicked it on. "Harris here."

Wash's voice emerged, tinny but urgent, "Hey, new guy, we've got a problem."

* * *

Author's Postscript:

To those of you waiting on Road to Love, you're just gonna have to wait a little longer. Sorry.